That Thousand-Megawatt Smile
by Joe Cramer
Last week, my trivia team came from behind to win. As they read off the last round scores, we jumped for joy, hugged each other and cried. It must have seemed like a bit of an overreaction to the other teams – the prize was only a $50 gift card. But to us, it was an emotional victory. It was the first time our team had played without Ben Gupta since he started the team three years ago.
Ben had such a big personality and wide network of friends, that it is no surprise there have been many impromptu tributes in his memory. We’ve raised lobster rolls to the sky in front of the State Department, sat in the leather lounge talking about the time we crammed for 1L finals, loaded up Die Hard and Robocop on Christmas eve, and got such a great group together at Froggy Bottom that I thought Ben was going to walk right through the door and have a seat in the corner.
Ben’s memorial service was a tribute to how many lives he affected. Ben’s father Vin spoke about how much he loved and cared for his son. Vin recalled, as all the speakers did, that Ben had a “thousand megawatt smile that would light up the room.” It really was his defining characteristic. Anyone who knew Ben can close their eyes and picture that smile right now. Every story at the funeral, from childhood pranks to partying with Bill Clinton and Axl Rose during the millennium celebration, ended with Ben saving the day, and charming the room with his good humor and positive demeanor. Because of the depth of his involvement with them, representatives from Phillips Exeter, Boston University, GW, and the State Department spoke of how the Gupta family had become like family to them.
The GW community was lucky to have Ben as a JD/MBA student during the past three years. To me, what stood out most about Ben was his motivation to be involved and to be helpful. Ben didn’t have to do anything, but he always did. He did well in college and had the Secretary of State’s number on his speed dial, so he didn’t have to go to grad school. He certainly didn’t have to pursue a joint degree while working full-time. He had plenty of friends, so he didn’t need to reach out to so many of his classmates and take them under his wing. He didn’t have to work on the World’s fair, fight global poverty, and coordinate a trip that brought GW students to India to study. He didn’t have to do any of these things, but he always did, and he never complained. Ben felt like he had been very blessed in his life, and he felt obligated to help others.
He liked to have fun as well. Trivia night was just one of the traditions he started. 1L year, he decided that every semester needed at least one Saturday devoted to 80’s action movies, and he always made sure it happened. By 4L year, we had almost run out movies to watch. A few days before he passed, Ben was at my house studying for exams. He talked about how excited he was to be finishing up school, and how much he had enjoyed his time at GW. Ben’s passing is tragic because his future was so clear. He had put in the work and had so much ahead of him. He is, and will continue to be – missed.
A memorial service will be held at the Bett’s Theatre on January 30th.